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Keith Strudler: Loving And Losing

It is never smart to use metaphor to predict the outcome of any sporting event. So the fact that the television feed for the World Series went down for what seemed like an hour – but apparently was only four minutes – has absolutely no bearing on what may or may not happen to the NY Mets, who dropped the first game of the World Series last night to the Kansas City Royals in 14 innings – which is about 5 more than I can watch on a weeknight.

It was a game that the Mets undeniably could have won, which is true for pretty much any extra inning baseball game, of course. But they did blow a ninth inning lead and extended the perception that the Royals just won’t quit, which is something we can’t say for the power in the Fox production truck.

The game had more than its requisite share of drama, from an inside the park home run on the Royals first batter to the fact that Kansas City’s starting pitcher’s father died soon before the game. It seemed almost tailor made for a storybook, come-from-behind win for the kids from the Midwest. Which is exactly what we got.

In a seven game series, losing the first game is by no means the end of the world. The numbers indicate that the Royals now have a 66% chance of winning, based on past events. But that all changes if the Mets win game two, which they statistically have nearly a 50% chance of doing. And that doesn’t take into account who’s pitching, or anyone’s mental psyche, or anything like that. So for all the drama, the Mets still have a reasonably strong chance of winning the title, albeit a smaller chance than if they had closed out the ninth inning last night. We’ll know far more after Game 2, when it’s either even-steven, or crisis mode for the Mets.

Which brings us to a larger question, and one that neither Mets, nor Royals fans really want to address. It’s one that Cubs fans are contemplating right now. And that is, how much is enough? Right now, Mets fans, at least those who can maintain any sense of objectivity, realize that their beloved team achieved far beyond any reasonable person's expectations. It was a squad that was build for next year, or perhaps the year after that, that largely expected to watch their cross-town rivals far surpass their accomplishment, once again. Only funny thing happened on the way to the ballpark. The Mets pitching was a better than expected. The bats came alive when they absolutely needed it. And low and behold, a team not far removed from a financial crisis turned today into tomorrow. After an unexpected sweep of a strong Chicago squad, a team build for the future found itself only four wins away from doing something they hadn't done since 1986.

In the exuberance of the moment, more than a few Mets fans have gone from "if" to "when." In other words, not if we could ever win the World Series, but rather when we do. Like in a week. And now, down a game and statistical probability, when might have to wait until next year, or the year after that, or 2050. Just ask the Red Sox about that. And if that's the case, if you're a Mets fan, was this a good year?

I suppose it really depends on how you view sports. Is it process, or simply a result. If it's only the latter, than this year could kind of stink. Regardless of what anyone says, there's no guarantee next year's Mets will play anything like this one, even with the same roster. Just ask the 1968 Green Bay Packers about that. Just because the Royals returned to the big show doesn't mean everyone will.

So instead, I invite all Mets fans to cure themselves of this possible ailment. For just this moment, I invite you to enjoy the ride, one which only happens on rare occasion, and in these parts, usually in the Bronx, not Queens. Take solace in the fact that your team will still be playing in November, while other fans are already watching the NBA. Realize the joy in sports fandom shouldn't simply be the prize, but also the process. Even though you may, and I stress may love and lose, that's better than never loving at all.

Then again, sports fans don't always like literary reference, nor metaphor for that matter. For Mets fans, especially after last night's power outage, that's probably a good thing.

Keith Strudler is the director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and an associate professor of communication. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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